Collecting birch bark canoe bark

We are progressing nicely with our birch bark canoe build, we have collected spruce root for the stitching and processed a lot of it. Now it was time to collect the big pieces of bark for the canoe. Here’s April and Jarrod Stone Dahl heading off into the woods. April makes the ash splint pack baskets and this one is 15 years old, they are beautiful. The folding ladder is needed because we are peeling the trees without felling them. April is a tribal member of the Ojibway so has rights to harvest bark in the forest but not to fell trees. IMG_9767The first thing to do after scouting out likely trees is to cut a small patch of bark and test it. It should peel well, it should be a good thickness, not too thin or thick, it should not delaminate when you bend it at the edge and when you bend it in both directions it should not split at the lenticels.

IMG_9668This bark is perfect


this shows the thickness

IMG_9721This bark came from a tree that at a glance looked great, tall broad and clean looking bark but it did not peel well so we rejected it and moved on.IMG_9770Having chosen a tree we go up the ladder and score down the bark with a knife.IMG_9729

IMG_9737Then the knife levers up the corner of the bark and we gradually ease it way from the tree. Jarrod and I are using a taal pole to put even pressure on all the way up the tree. The bug nets were a necessity, there were masses of mossies. We took some video of this process which we will post in a few days when we have access to fast wifi.IMG_9685Here is the first piece nearly free, we just reposition the ladder to ensure a good grip as the bark comes free.and here we are with my first ever piece of canoe quality bark, it is quite a feeling.IMG_9689This is what it looked like on the ground this piece is good enough for the single large panel that forms the base of the canoe.IMG_9699The bark is very precious so we handle it very carefully to ensure it does not rip as we bring it down the ladder, then it’s rolled up.IMG_9700We still need several more pieces for the other panels of the canoe. Here is the second tree.IMG_9746one last tree for smaller panels, this one really popped off.IMG_9783The freshly peeled trees are really very beautiful

IMG_9759April made some offerings of tobacco to the spirit of the trees in thanks.
IMG_9793 IMG_9792and then we carried everything out of the forrestIMG_9801Three rolls of priceless canoe quality bark. Next week is building time, it is getting exciting!IMG_9811

3 Responses to Collecting birch bark canoe bark

  1. Follansbee June 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Like the doormouse in Alice, I once in a while rouse from sleep – and here I think I see a Stormy Kromer in those woods! Amazing set of photos, what a process. Glad you got an eagle, too…

  2. Bobbie Williams June 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    A great read, as always. Roughly, how long and wide are the pieces if bark you have harvested?

    • Robin Wood June 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      The pieces vary Bobbie but the largest are about 36″ wide and 12 feet long. Quality is more important than size as they can be seed together